There’s a new shop in the county, Appalachian Arts Center, and it showcases crafters and artists from a wide area of southern Appalachia. I’m especially proud of the name for I suggested it and feel it suits our area and representational crafts of Appalachia. The AAC is on Route 19, west of the county seat and just before reaching the line between Tazewell and Russell Counties. Sarah Romeo is the director and she uses the old country store to present the wares in a comfortable and cozy setting.
Several times a year, special exhibits display talents and offerings such as this quilt exhibit. All quilts were made by a woman who lived in the Cove Area of Tazewell County which is where Thistle Cove Farm is located. There’s a continuity in a quilt, the work of women’s hands. So much of what we women do is fleeting but absolutely necessary to the survival of the species. A meal cooked over an open fire or cooked on a stainless steel stove takes days to think about, buy the ingredients, prepare the food for cooking and baking and then the actual stove time. A quilt, lovingly made, one stitch at a time, with time enough to pray for the people who will sleep under its warmth. Mrs. Elswick made clothes for her family and the scraps were saved for quilting. She would pour over Grit or other family and farming magazines and find pictures of patterns she liked. Her husband would take those tiny pictures, sometimes nothing more than an advert in the back of the magazine, and, painstakingly, with pencil and paper make a pattern to size. Mrs. E. used a quilting frame on ropes and during the dark winter days she would lower the frame, stitch on her quilt and, when it was time for bed, the frame would be raised to the ceiling until next time.
The work of her hands, her legacy to her family, loved ones and even those she never knew, lives on and we are all grateful beneficiaries.
Other women made dolls for their girls, another time honored tradition. These dolls are hand crafted beginning with the muslin cloth which is dyed with tea or coffee, and ends with the giving of the name. Each doll is given a name, the name’s meaning and signed by Ica. Each doll is a work of art down to the hair which is wool from the sheep on my farm.
My friend, Charlie, makes the lap dulcimers and they make beautiful music as well as being beautiful. Lap dulcimers, like the banjo, are supposed to be truly Appalachian in design, but with the roots in other countries. Lap dulcimers are said to be similar to the stringed instrument played by David in the Old Testament. Banjo roots are in Mali, Africa; I believe that’s the correct spelling.
I don’t know who the painter is but I like the detail and it makes me think of John Henry, the steel driving man. There’s a statue just across the state line in West VA; John Henry was a real man who is now a legend and difficult to separate the legend from the man. This painting does him justice, I think.
Crochet is lovely work and one doesn’t frequently see work as beautiful as this. I know doilies aren’t popular but I still like and use them. Antimacassars came into being because people didn’t bath everyday. Water and time were precious resources and women would use antimacassars to cover the backs and arms of sofas and chairs to protect from body oils and dirt. Antimacassars used to be more solid in design in order to offer the most protection from dirty shirt sleeves and hair. Doilies came about as functional decorations and were used to protect table tops from being scratched by coffee mugs or ash trays, etc. Now they deserve to be framed and hung on the wall, a reminder of gentler and harsher times.
On my way home, I passed a barn with a Christmas wreath…just lovely! I adore when people use simple decorations in honor of the Christmas season. Simple decorations add dignity and deorum, a sense of orderliness and propriety that enhances the season and keeps one focused upon the reason we celebrate Christmas. No, I dare say Dec 25 isn’t the day Christ was born but it’s as good a day as any to celebrate, to hold near and dear those in my life I cherish, to share the joy as well as the reason for Christmas. To believe, not in Santa, but in the life everlasting first brought to us by a babe in a manger. Please, slow down this Christmas season and stay true to those things that matter most in life…family, friends, Christ.
As I top the mountain, “my” valley is cast before me in all its beauty!I always have to stop and admire the view and think about the verse, “I cast mine eyes unto the hills from which cometh my help”. No matter where I rest my eyes, there’s beauty and more to see and share. If you live in the mountains, you’re lucky enough!